Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Black Stone

Short Story by Robert E. Howard

An unnamed narrator goes to investigate a huge black monolith in Eastern Europe which supposedly drives people insane. Turns out there is better reason for the stories than he'd thought.

This is obviously a Lovecraft inspired story, Howard even manages to use "cyclopean", plus a well-timed fainting episode. Alliteration is used to nice effect in the descriptions, although it perhaps gets a little overkill toward the end. There are some internal rhymes which I think sound nice here (not bunny rabbit nice, this is horror) and it is a weird but fun thing to notice. Something about the words themselves gives this more of a frantic activeness than the same scene would have were it described by Lovecraft.

Lots of implied stories of other people to be found here: the weird death of Von Junzt after completing his book on cults, the insanity of Justin Geoffrey, the last stand of Count Boris Vladinoff, and the story in the Turkish parchment tube he received just before his death, the narrator's own previous adventure on the Yucatan Peninsula, and the real life history of the region. All these stories are partially told to one degree or another, with large parts left implied. It adds a lot of depth to the more simple story of going to the region and seeing some stuff. A real sense of history that a lot of other "mythos" tales are lacking, despite all the old books and whatnot normally present (you have those here, too).

So the descriptions are pretty good, and this is a story all about description. But the thing that stands out most is that you think you're at the climax, and he is going to faint and everything will be over in the morning. And then the next morning, you find out something else, and that is clearly the climax. And then there is an even bigger reveal... The story tops itself a couple times while maintaining the ever-important sense of surprising-yet-logical. And the ending actually works to be creepy, unlike some stories that have tried a similar final twist.

4 mad poets out of 5.

No comments: